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What is express consent in Colorado?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2022 | Drunk Driving

When you see the patrol lights flashing in the rearview mirror, the first reaction is usually fear. You may have just been enjoying an evening out with friends before this unwelcome interruption. When the officer asks you to get out of the car and consent to field sobriety tests (FST) or a breathalyzer, then the panic can really set in. At this point, many people begin to get angry at what feels like an invasion of their privacy.

Understanding the process of a traffic stop when an officer suspects that a driver is impaired in Colorado can help those who are fighting the charges and struggling to get their lives back on track. Denver residents can find out more about their rights and how to defend themselves when they are facing DUI charges, license revocation, or enhanced penalties.

What tests can I refuse?

At the time of the traffic stop, the officer has nothing on the driver except a suspicion that they might be DUI or DWAI (driving while ability impaired). Because this suspicion is based purely on observation, the officer needs to gather enough evidence against the driver to have probable cause for an arrest.

Before the arrest, however, the driver may politely refuse FSTs or a handheld breath test with no consequences. These tests are notoriously inaccurate and taking them may only give law enforcement more evidence to use later.

What happens after arrest?

Under Colorado express consent laws, the officer will ask the suspect to provide a chemical sample or breath test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which must be completed within two hours of driving. The results of this test will provide the basis for the severity of the offense, with penalties that include:

  • DWAI: BAC between 0.05 and 0.08%, two to 180 days jail time, fines of up to $500, eight points on drivers’ license.
  • DUI per se: BAC of 0.08%, five days to one year jail time, fines of up to $1,000, revocation of driving privileges for nine months, 12 points on driver’s license.

In addition to criminal penalties, there are administrative consequences for refusing to submit to a test after arrest. In all 50 states including Colorado, the law treats a driver’s license as a permit to drive on a public road. Implied in this permit is the driver’s acceptance of traffic laws as well as a police officer’s enforcement of them.

By refusing a test after the officer has determined probable cause, the driver is violating Colorado’s express consent laws, which will result in an automatic 12-month license revocation.